The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘signage

lacquered patinas

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Signs and portents.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Everybody wants to tell you what to do, all the time. Signage adjures, cautions, forbids, and demands attention wherever you look. If you’re literate, your brain instantly begins putting together the messaging on signs and you have no choice but to receive the intended messaging. For years, I’ve wondered about whether or not there’s some combination of words which could render you instantly insane upon receiving them, in the manner of a magick spell. Could a campaign of signage designed to transmit a “very bad idea” or incantation end civilization itself, and reduce mankind to atavistic savages in the process? We can only hope so.

Personally, I’m reduced to reaching into the archives today, as the whole busted toe drama has reduced my productivity to nearly zero.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I won’t fill you in on how to interpret the sign above, in the language of NYC’s street culture, but if you are literate in slang it’s quite a funny message.

One did manage to attend two CB1 community board functions this week, both of which saw me using a taxi to get to the meetings. The first was held by the “land use” committee, which I’m not a member of but we are encouraged to attend all committee meetings whether or not we are officially a member thereof. I’m trying to visit with each one of the groupings at least once, in pursuit of meeting all the other CB1 members and also learning the operational side of things. Personally, I’m on the “transportation” and “environmental” committee groups.

“Land use,” which was on Wednesday night, seems to focus in on zoning and other niceties of the City Planning process. Discussed was the status of Rikers Island. It seems that despite Rikers being officially and politically part of the Bronx, Queens CB1 has regency over the island and facility. The Dept. of City Planning was seeking board consensus for two items – redefining the island as a “public place,” and secondly the effort to create a locked down deadline of December of 2026 for when detention would no longer be allowed on Rikers Island. Discussion of what comes after occurred, but that was shelved as it’s functionally impossible to predict what the next Mayor and the next City Council coalition would want to do with it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last night, the “transportation” committee met. We received a presentation from Revel, a private company offering “last mile” electric moped services. With an app and smartphone based business model which feeds customers to their moped fleet of 1,000 units (currently), the Revel people were quite nice and prepared for questions and answers. In general, I’m liking their service (which I don’t use, but several of my friends do), and the conversation with their reps centered around safety and operational issues. My questions for them centered around privacy issues, how long trip data persists on their servers, and so on.

It was nice to be amongst people, for a sheltered invalid such as myself.


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Come to the library!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek – The Roosevelt Island Historic Society has invited me to present a slideshow and talk about my beloved Newtown Creek at the New York Public Library on Roosevelt Island, on November 14th, 6 p.m. Free event!

Click here for more information.!

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 8, 2019 at 11:45 am

immediate presentation

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Everybody’s always telling me what to do, man.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Public signage is fascinating to one such as myself. Sometimes, as is the case with the specimen above which was found on the George Washington Bridge several years ago, a sign has been installed which attempt the criminalization of something not otherwise prohibited. This allows for the “pretext” needed for law enforcement officers to perform an interview and possibly hand out a citation. Without the presence of the sign, there’s no pretext.

It’s one of those wrinkly bits, constitutionally. Signage of the type displayed above was spattered all over the bridges of NYC after the September 11th attacks. Enforcement of the sign’s sentiments has proven costly for law enforcement, in court case after court case against photographers, so changes in the rules have been instituted. MTA Bridges and Tunnels, as well as the Port Authority folks, have created the rule “Must follow instructions posted on signage,” so if you’re walking over Triborough or George Washington Bridges anytime soon and ignore a posted missive that says “Jump” you’re in legal jeopardy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As advised by the local precinct brass when an army of hobos and bums appeared along Broadway in Astoria a couple of years ago, after a humble narrator inquired as to why it was legal to pass out drunk in front of my house but it wasn’t legal for me to energetically encourage the departure of the inebriate, another wrinkle was revealed. If you don’t have a sign up specifically forbidding trespassing, the cops are limited somewhat in what they are enabled to do. One prefers the sort of gentle persuasion and good mannered physicality which the NYPD rightly enjoy a reputation for, when the sidewalk outside my domicile has been turned into the daily gathering place for half dozen drunkards, to a couple of cops nicely asking the bums to move on. If you’ve got a “No Trespassing” sign up, now, that’s a different story altogether.

Famously, the cops used carry a “nightstick” as part of their compliment of utility belt tools, but not too long ago I found out they used to carry a “daystick.” My query as to what the difference between the two clubs was, to a veteran of the NYPD during the 1970’s, was answered with “It was some kind of plastic, and like a nightstick, but smaller. You’d use it to hit people, but the nightstick was better for that.” What do cops carry these days, for use as a club? A frozen Toblerone, perhaps? The mind boggles.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is always ready to fight, or give flight, as my brain commands the pancreas to manufacture all the fear and anxiety hormones and steroidal mixes it can manage. That means two things. One is that I “wake up tired” in the abdominal area found just above my small intestine and right below my liver, secondly is that a blind panic sets in as soon as the eyes flicker open from the interminable daily intervals wherein I pass out and wildly hallucinate for hours and hours.

Danger? Yeah, good morning.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 5, 2018 at 3:00 pm

tightly nailed

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How do you not read something if you know how to read?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Surrounded as we all are by signage, one often wonders about how, or if, you can tune it all out. If you can read the written word, it’s virtually impossible for the literate brain not to translate graphic messaging as language and process the printed symbols into words and thoughts. Given my notorious affections for the horror genre of literature and film, often has a certain postulate occurred to me – can you transmit a thought virus via the written word as supposed by HP Lovecraft and his dreaded Necronomicon? By thought virus, I’m referring to a “very bad idea” which induces instant madness in the reader – a sort of syllabic poison? As previously and multitudinously stated, I’m all ‘effed up.

“Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nfah Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!” anyone?

Note: Over the years I’ve had a few friends who suffered from various mental illnesses, many of which center around paranoid delusions, and if I noticed them carrying around a tarot deck or some other occult contrivance I would start to worry. Paranoids should avoid any sort of divination and the occult in general, in my opinion, as Gnosticism excaberates their inclination towards visualizing and finding patterns in random events and the usage of a dininatory device tends to confirm the efficacy of their self created beliefs. Such patterns of thought are “very bad ideas” which often lead to fugue states which include inescapable logical traps and racing thoughts, as well as a false perception of enhanced physical abilities – a psychological state which often leads to traumatic medical and pharmaceutical interventions and world weary cops referring to them as an “EDP” or Emotionally Disturbed Person. (I’ve been there for a couple of people’s “enhanced” states and it sucks, they’re having what basically a “brain attack” and there’s naught you can do except stand there and listen while gathering up and hiding sharp implements from around the room.) 

I always wonder – could it have been something I said?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A “very bad idea” that’s transmitted by a bit of public signage, like the sort you’ll see when approaching the Brooklyn Queens Expressway from Northern Blvd. for example, would be a pernicious foeman. The vast numbers who witness it – even from blocks away – would all be transformed into homicidal madmen and madladies. We are surrounded by the written word, and any literate person has no choice but to instantaneously read and process what they see.

Imagine, if you will, a screed whose combination of nouns and verbs is capable of instantaneously inducing madness. You blunder in front of the message during your daily round, and the thought virus imparted by the signage shatters the gentile veil of civilization – reducing you into thundering mania – a homicidal lunatic bent on wreaking random and bloody havoc. What if such a phrase was displayed to an audience of thousands in a sports stadium, or at Grand Central Terminal, or in Times Square at rush hour? What if it was sent out over the amber alert system and every cell phone in NYC carried the thought virus? Would it be translatable to Spanish, or Urdu, or Mandarin? It could reach epidemic status within minutes via modern technologies.

“Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread,” anyone?

This would be, of course, some sort of sorcery – but perhaps our modern world just hasn’t found the correct combination of syllables to shatter society’s strongest chord yet.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In such a world, where the “very bad idea” had propagated forth and infected the literate – we’d have to rely on the illiterate to find a solution. Perhaps this is what happened during the dark ages, and the Black Death wasn’t bubonic plague but rather a thought virus that nearly consumed all of Europe – leaving behind an illiterate nobility and peasantry to repopulate the devastated countryside? Can this be what happened to Roman civilization in the 3rd century AD?

Ever Their praises, and abundance to the Black Goat of the Woods. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!

How do you ignore the written word if you can read? 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

additional fact

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I can’t help it if I’m “literal minded.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given that I used be a “comics guy” who wrote and drew the things, there’s a certain presupposition which possesses me to interpret things in an extremely literal fashion. Given that my days and nights are spent here in Western Queens, which is famously the most diverse collection of humanity upon the entire earth, a humble narrator often finds himself in quite a pickle when signage is encountered. Some of the neighbors offer a charming interpretation of the American variant of English, after all.

I was confused by the signage in the shot above, encountered at the border of Woodside and Sunnyside. They sell Tacos, but not pets? Is the meat in the Taco not pet meat? If so, then what about the hot dogs?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Certainty exists that the fellow who crafted the signage above intended to signal that the sidewalk was not open for its intended purpose, but one likes to assume it’s a general warning about the pavement’s proximity. On a technical note, the kerning and tracking of the letterforms adorning the missive could really use some love and attention – lousy typography is another one of my pet peeves.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The chalk screed on the signboard pictured above wasn’t just advertising a Soccer match on Astoria’s Broadway to me, instead it was describing the last 75 years of United States foreign policy. Then again, I am literally minded as offered above, and if you put “USA vs. World” on a sign…

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 28, 2016 at 11:00 am

overtones of

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Another random series of shots, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Greenpoint, a line of empty taxis parked on Provost Street, across the street from the sewer plant.

It’s actually meant to be pronounced as “Provoost” despite being spelled as “Provost.” The Provosts were one of the original five families of Greenpoint, along with the Bennets, Calyers, Praas, and Messeroles. These five Dutch families dominated Greenpoint politically for nearly two centuries, owned most of the land, and only began to recede into history when Neziah Bliss married into the Messerole clan. Bliss laid out the modern street grid, erected the first bridges over Bushwick and Newtown Creeks, and is the father of the modern community.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The IND R train entering into Queens Plaza. Queens Plaza’s IND service opened for business on August 19th in 1933, but back then there was only express service between Manhattan and Queens. It wasn’t until 1955 when the 60th street tunnel opened that the Queens local trains began to travel back and forth into the Shining City. I work on getting this shot every time I’m there, and you have to time it just right to catch an arc flash that the train sets off as it comes to the station tracks grade.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s amazing how many manhole cover types there are, a subject which has been discussed endlessly at this – your Newtown Pentacle. The story of municipal consolidation can be read in the screeds embossed onto these iron discs, and the one pictured above was once the property of the “Bureau of Water and Sewers” which is now part of the NYC DEP and can be observed at the border of Sunnyside and Blissville in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a “Brooklyn Department of City Works” access cover, which was found back in Greenpoint. DCW is also now a part of the consolidated DEP.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in Queens, on the “carridor” of Northern Blvd., a puzzling bit of signage has emerged on one of the enormous advertising bill boards found on the corner of 38th street. The easterly facing side says “Stay Calm” with a screed reading “-Peter.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The westerly facing side says “Don’t Panic,” and also has the “-Peter” signature. Dictionary definitions are superimposed on the block print messaging, this one bears the definition of courage. I’ve looked around for what these signs are meant to be selling or saying, but haven’t been able to find out much. If anybody knows what’s up with these messages, please share in the comments.

Either way, they are reminiscent of the sort of things Rowdy Roddy Piper observed in the John Carpenter film “They Live.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A gorgeous bit of hand painted signage adorns the back of a NYCHA emergency truck back in Greenpoint, and is pictured above.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 10, 2016 at 11:00 am

untold agony

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Hoary Greenpoint, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, the light was spectacular over in Greenpoint, and since I seldom find myself there in the early part of the afternoon – advantage was taken. Manhattan Avenue’s tenements and apartment buildings are framed by Saint Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in the shot above. St. Anthony’s hosts both a rectory and a convent. The Church is built in the high victorian gothic style, with a 240 foot high steeple, and it laid its cornerstone back in 1873.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Linoleum signage on Manhattan Avenue, for the J. Josephs Sons Co. – a former appliance store. This is vestigial, and part of the character of the street which will shortly be cleansed by the bland homogeneity offered by the Real Estate Industrial Complex’s desire to eradicate all character from the streets of New York City in the name of lining the sidewalks with glass boxes. I cannot imagine what future generations will think.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on North Henry Street, a seldom seen point of view on the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment plant. This is a quite industrial spot, with a biofuel company and a recycling operation found along the bulkheads of the Newtown Creek. It’s also the “back door” to the sewer plant, where the contractors come and go.

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Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

shining mists

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Signs and portents, in today’s post

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As promised, while you were gazing at the photo of that cute kitten I posted yesterday, a minor scuttle of the immediate environs was enacted. Where I’m going on my walks around Queens is seldom guided by a conscious decision, other than avoiding all possible contact or interaction with the human infestation, instead it’s more of a wandering sort of thing. Yesterday, I was looking specifically for the little things. For instance the Mexican Deli’s sidewalk signage offering a matrix of name translations between Spanish and English for various comestibles.

I always wondered how to say “Green Beas” in Spanish, now I know it’s “ejotes.” I think that “ejotes” must be a fun word to pronounce.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lost Kittens, that’s what the headline on this lamp post flyer says.

Can there be a headline which is sadder in tone than “Lost Kittens?”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There seems to be a lot of this sort of thing around the neighborhoods. Everywhere I go, even down at Newtown Creek, these sort of lost pet flyers are found. “Lost Kittens,” jeez.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the same lamp post, another faded ad, this one searching for a little black dog.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few blocks south, on Broadway -somebody had posted queries about the status of a lost, child sized, winter boot.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 11, 2015 at 1:00 pm

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